Find Your Focus. Banish the “And.”

As the holidays approach, we’re entering the time of year that one of our clients, a school communications director, always found the most challenging.

I like to call it her season of “ANDs.”

As in: the holiday appeal AND the year-end email AND the distribution of the holiday performance recording via YouTube AND Facebook AND Twitter AND email AND the blog. AND did I mention, she was a communications staff of one?

Maybe you can relate, even if your staff is a little larger. Even if your season of ANDs is a little more year-round.

Maybe you’ve finally figured out how to juggle all the communication balls you have in the air when your board wants to know why your organization’s not on Pinterest and Instagram (because Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter aren’t enough).

Or your boss suddenly decides the target of your next appeal should be your usual Baby Boomer cat lovers AND Millennial dog lovers—to cover more ground.

The problem with the AND spiral is that it eats up valuable resources without an equivalent return on your investment.

It’s one of the roadblocks to skyrocketing participation that I always point to when I’m teaching our clients the five shifts in thinking needed to succeed like an eight-figure organization.

 The solution to the “ANDs”? Finding your focus to leverage your effort.

It doesn’t matter how much time your staff pours into an endeavor if your audience just doesn’t relate—or just isn’t there. Which means your first, most important step is knowing your audience. We’ve covered that topic a lot and you can read more about it on our blog.

Once you’ve clearly defined who you’re talking to, the mantra “FOCUS” is your best friend.

Focus means messaging that speaks directly to your perfect audience and no one else. Promoting only the initiatives that are likely to interest them. Sharing in the places they like to interact with you.

How do you hone this focus? Pair a communications audit with a short-term action plan.

This is an exercise we take our clients through when we’re conducting a rebrand. However, it can be an incredibly powerful endeavor as a stand-alone exercise as well.

Chances are that by this time of year you have a neglected document at the bottom of your drawer or buried on your server—gathering real or digital dust: your Communications Plan.

Now is the perfect time to pull it out, take a close look at what you are—or intended to be—doing. Take some time to evaluate what’s working, where you may have gotten sidetracked, and whether you’re even likely to find your audience in the places you’re looking. Review the materials you’ve produced and the campaigns you’ve conducted over the last year, noting whether it all comes back to one focused center and identifying the efforts that produced the greatest returns.

Armed with this new perspective, you’ll be able to start laying out your new, streamlined plan, without all the baggage that’s been weighing you down.

For even greater focus, try using our approach: write a short-term Action Plan that focuses on the next 3 things you can do that will have the greatest impact. This will help you to continuously reevaluate what you’re doing and where you’re going. Besides, with the speed that today’s world moves, what’s big now could already be old hat in six months.

If this task sounds daunting, you’re not alone! Many find it helpful to have an objective eye take look at their plans, because when you’re on the inside, it’s easy to get too close to the details—or too caught up in execution to have the time.

For an outside perspective on your communications plan, or to get help with where to cut and what to streamline, give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

The Hidden Flaw That’s Killing Your Marketing

While we do a lot of work helping organizations define their brand, many others come to us with a professional look already in place. Thoughtful messaging that’s been carefully crafted. Impressive programming.

And another problem entirely: their marketing just doesn’t produce the results they want.

Could your conferences be better attended? Your services more widely utilized? Your donors more generous? Is your organization’s membership like a revolving door—people are in and out, but not as many stay as they should?

If you can relate to any of these challenges, you might have the same problem we see stealthily undermining so many organizations’ marketing efforts.

Before we tell you what it is, you have to promise us to keep an open mind. Because nearly every time we’ve helped a client or taught a workshop on this problem, everyone’s skeptical at the outset.

“We’ve already got a handle on this,” they tell us.

But as we actually lead people through the exercises that help them start solving the problem, they become believers. And it changes their entire perspective, paving the way for new insights and better results.

That’s just what happened over the summer when we presented a workshop for network affiliates of NeighborWorks America, an organization that helps build the capacity of independent nonprofits working in affordable housing and community development.

The topic of the day? Knowing your audience.

Like many before them, the workshop participants told me at the beginning of the session that they already knew their audience. But I’m not easily deterred. And based on past experience, I suspected they were wrong.

So to help them uncover their true, most profitable, most potential-laden audience, I guided them through an exercise in creating a detailed “persona” for their perfect person. The person they’ll think of when they write their messaging. The person they’ll think of when they choose their communication channels. The person they’ll think of when designing programs.

And that’s when my class discovered that all along they’ve been talking to “Millenials” when they should have been talking to 29-year-old Ashley. Millenials are a broad, generic group at best, a limiting stereotype at the worst. Ashley, on the other hand, is worried about paying student debt and a mortgage, values career networking opportunities, spends weekends hiking with her fiance and loves science fiction novels.

If this sounds crazy, let me tell you, the ideas that participants generate in a 15-minute marketing exercise after they create their perfect person always blow me away. And people leave excited by the new energy this changed perspective brings to the way they think about their communication strategy.

Because the thing is, once you know who your ideal audience member really is, you know exactly how to talk to her and what you need to offer— just like you know the best way to present something to your boss to win buy-in, to your teenager to entice cooperation or to your friend to convince her to check out that new movie you wanted to see.

Is your marketing falling flat—even though you feel like your doing everything right?

Maybe this same hidden flaw is plaguing your marketing strategy.

Maybe it’s time you discovered your Ashley.

From a workshop at your conference, an exercise for your team or through consulting, we can help you meet her (or him!). Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or email us at info@iriscreative.com to talk about how it works.

Become a Champion

You want people to participate in your work. Donate, attend events, enroll, join — whatever it is you need to thrive.

Participation, however, is not just an external thing. Who you are on the inside reflects what happens on the outside. The most successful, thriving organizations have gotten where they are because they’ve rallied around a clear, impactful, shared vision.

NOT by chasing “buy-in.”

Because if you’re chasing buy-in, that means that the vision you’re promoting isn’t SHARED.

If you want to catapult your organization to the next level, the most important role you can play is to become a champion by helping your team create this vision.

And by “team” we mean leadership, staff, donors, students, volunteers … which brings us to fear. It feels risky to let your community have a say in who you are. It can be terrifying to tell your leadership they need to think differently. But it is only when there is cohesive excitement that you build a foundation for growth.

When this is working people report it as getting “buy-in,” but it really requires more than that. We call it “becoming a champion.” Buy-in sounds like someone was convinced that another person’s idea is worth doing. Champions are all-in supporters who inspire others.

When organization leaders invite participation into and among their team members to create a shared vision, their championship becomes a culture of championship.

And it’s so much easier to attract people who want to invest in a shared future.

Becoming a champion is just one of the shifts in thinking it takes to build a participation-centered brand and skyrocket success.

 

If you’re ready now to become your organization’s champion and advance a shared vision, we’re here to help!

In October we’ll be running a new session of our Build Your Brand Course. The program will include weekly Mastermind sessions to ask questions and get feedback on your work. To get a feel for what the experience is like, we are running a free Mastermind-style session, Skyrocket Branding Mastermind in September. This will help us get feedback and give you a taste of what you’ll get out of the course.

 

 

The Myth About Member Benefits, and What it Means for Your Organization

The magnificent manifesto—and what it can do for you!

Do you remember the American Express ads declaring “Membership has its privileges?”

Admit it. There are days when you wish that was all you had to say to get your existing members to renew and new members to join, right?

American Express smartly adopted the idea of ‘membership” to claim the value and specialness of being their customer. It’s clear you don’t have to literally be a membership organization to capitalize on the idea. Either way — it takes work to win loyalty, cut through today’s information overload and build up your brand to the point where people are aspiring to be part of it.

But most of us already realize that. The problem is most of us don’t know we’re going about “the work” of winning member loyalty all wrong.

 

The Myth: Sell your benefits!

Often, the things you call “benefits” are actually thinly masked “features.”

It’s not about what you do, have, or sell (features), people care about the outcome they receive by participating (benefit).

For example, if you are a hospital, you might want to promote the quality of your doctors or the cutting-edge technologies you use. Those are both features, and adding “you have access to…” does not turn it into a benefit.

Same goes for organizations that offer things like certifications. You may think that is a benefit, but it’s not. No one lays awake at night thinking “what I really need is a great webinar…”

They want the result of that webinar, certification, program, treatment, or experience to advance their career, regain their health, improve their lives or whatever value that brought them to your organization.

Instead of showcasing your features, demonstrate the ultimate, personal value your members get from them. That’s a benefit.

Put yourself in your members’ shoes. Find out what they want. Show them how they can get what they need from you.

 

The Magnificent Manifesto—And What It Can Do For You!

The magnificent manifesto—and what it can do for you!

Last month, FilmRise studio released a new indie film featuring two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett—Manifesto.

Have you seen it? We haven’t either.

That’s because in May, we were busy helping the Delaware Art Alliance create their own manifesto.

 

Why write a manifesto for a nonprofit?

Because if you can’t inspire your members to care about your work, you’ll flounder.

It will show up in members reporting that they give because it’s their civic duty or because their parents did — not because they feel inspired and valued.

In retention rates that meet the “norm” of 47% but have you struggling to hang on to half of all the people you bring in.

In days where you stare at a blank page wondering what to write.

In redesigning your logo or invitations to build awareness when that’s not the root of the problem.

A manifesto is valuable resource in the branding toolkit that builds the bridge between mission and vision. It helps you share “why” your work matters as opposed to “what” and “how”.

 

What is a manifesto?

First to dust off some of that high school social studies vocabulary, a manifesto is a written public declaration of what you believe or what you intend to do.

Throughout history, manifestos have been used to rally support for different movements and political groups—from the America’s Declaration of Independence to the Communist Manifesto.

A nonprofit manifesto takes your mission, vision, and values—which are really written for your internal audience to guide your strategy and decision-making—and frames them in a way that rallies your audience members and calls them to action.

 

A manifesto helps you rally your true team.

To rally your people, you need to really know who they are. You need to know who you are. And you need to connect with the goals you share.

But here’s the catch. If you want to be branded, you have to be willing to be perfect for some at the expense of being totally wrong for others. When you do that, you’re going to lose some people along the way.

And that’s not just ok, it’s great. Believe it or not, a smaller, deeply engaged audience typically generates more revenue than a large disconnected one.

 

Get started.

So how do you go about writing a manifesto to fire up your staff and supporters?

The format we like to use prompts “why” thinking with completing the phrases: “We value,” “We believe,” and “We are committed to.” Then closes with an action statement: “We invite you to…”

Last month we facilitated a workshop with the Delaware Arts Alliance to guide a group of staff, members, media and government through a manifesto exercise. The participants challenged assumptions and each other to reveal the things that were critically important to them. They made some tough—but very strategic—decisions that we’re certain will pay dividends in a strong, thriving organization! We’re excited for them as they refine their role and put a stake in the sand.

If your organization is feeling stuck or scattered, we can help. Let’s talk about getting your brand into focus or creating your own manifesto.

Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

April’s Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us.

April's Slam Dunk and What It Can Teach Us

Here at Iris Creative, last month could be summed up in one word: April.

No, we don’t mean the page of the calendar we were on. We’re talking about April THE GIRAFFE. And like many of her fans around the world, we obsessively followed her for weeks.

In case you missed it, on April 15 Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York hosted a live broadcast of their giraffe April giving birth to her calf for over 1 million YouTube viewers.

To date, their 39-minute YouTube archive clip has well over 14 million views. Fourteen million!

April even has her own official website—www.aprilthegiraffe.com. Folks contacting Animal Adventure Park with inquiries about giraffes are directed to a dedicated email address. And the Giraffe Cam even scored a sponsorship from none other than Toys“R”Us. (Remember their mascot Geoffrey?)

Needless to say, the event was a slam-dunk for a seasonal park in a county of just over 200,000 inhabitants.

From sharing slews of facts about giraffes and their conservation with millions of people to selling giraffe emojis, Animal Adventure Park orchestrated the awareness-building phenomenon many organizations dream of.

Or did they?

 

Building Awareness vs. Tapping Your Audience

Build awareness. It’s what everyone wants to do. But activities bent solely on building awareness can be costly—not only from a financial standpoint, but from a messaging standpoint as well.

Often, awareness-building initiatives result in a diluted message as you attempt to be everything to everyone in order to reach a broader audience. It’s so much harder to create a connection and differentiate yourself that way.

We’d much rather see organizations get a bigger bang for their buck—by creating a laser-focused connection with their ideal audience.

As it turns out, April’s Giraffe Cam didn’t start out with a vast audience in mind either—just her usual fans. And look where that focus got her!

Read on for our key takeaways from April’s blockbuster stream:

 

1. Listen to your audience.

According to a report by KENS5 Eyewitness News, the Giraffe Cam initiative started because the park—which is closed to visitors during the off-season—had been receiving inquiries about the status of April’s pregnancy from regular-season visitors.

The park listened.

They came up with the Giraffe Cam to keep interested folks informed.

And things snowballed from there.

 

2. Building momentum takes time.

The Giraffe Cam went live weeks before April’s calf was born, mostly, it seems, because the park simply didn’t know exactly when the big moment would arrive. Her tentative due date was mid-February.

The lead-up gave April’s viewership time to gain momentum—and secure a sponsor with appropriate tie-ins. The park even set up a text alert system so obsessed fans like us could get the latest updates.

(The Toys“R”Us logo switched to Babies“R”Us when the calf made his appearance. Talk about message alignment!)

None of this would have happened if they simply went live five minutes before the birth.

 

3. Follow up after an event. Invite participation. And add a little suspense!

After the live birth the morning of April 15th, the screen didn’t just go black. In addition to watching footage of the baby giraffe, people waited in suspense for the big gender reveal later that day. (Spoiler alert: It’s a boy!)

The park also encouraged fans—for a fee —to participate in two rounds of voting to help staff name the calf.

And you guessed it. They made an event of the name reveal, too. We’ll let you discover that one for yourself.

 

Do you see an opportunity to connect with your audience? Run with it!

Need some help getting off the ground? From engaging audiences to making the most of your events, creating connections is what we do best.

Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com!

(Live streams not included.)

Your Three-Step Spring Marketing Detox

In a 2015 study, 60% of working professionals report that their productivity suffers because they’re trying to tackle too many things at once.1

That’s a lot of over-busy people who are still disappointed by what they haven’t accomplished!

Are you one of them?

Is your to-do list never ending? Your desk overflowing? Are you weighed down by a heap of unfinished (or unstarted projects)?
From emails to appointments, an endless parade of time-sucking tasks have cluttered our lives and clouded our vision.

When you’re distracted by urgent needs and pending deadlines, you might never get to the high-payoff project that’s been waiting months — or even years — for you to address.

But right now it’s the perfect time to clean out and get focused!

Whether you draw your inspiration from the warm weather’s call to spring cleaning, the tradition of sweeping the chametz from your cabinets for Passover, or the idea of renewal every Easter, there’s something in the human spirit that craves a regular reset.

Here’s a three-step spring detox for your marketing to-do list:

 

1. Eliminate

First, take an honest look at your list and eliminate anything that really isn’t a priority, doesn’t have a worthwhile payoff, or has been on your list so long that it’s no longer relevant.

Just this week Beth led a social media training session for a group of nonprofits in New Jersey. When she told them they didn’t have to “Be Everywhere” the group let out a collective sigh of relief. And with the assurance that they didn’t have to do everything, they asked, “how do we know if what we are doing is worth the effort?”

Good question. So here are a few more you can ask to find out if it’s time to let it go:
• Are you reaching and holding the interest of your primary audience?
• Can you demonstrate that what you are doing is moving directly or indirectly toward a desirable action?
• Do you know which of your strategic goals that activity supports?

If you are not sure, it may be time to put that project on hold until you do.

Feeling lighter already? Great!

Now for the dreaded eight-letter word:

 

2. Delegate

Accept that you can’t do it all. If projects are stuck but can’t be eliminated, then you need to get help. A list of work backing up adds stress that can impact your ability to make progress on anything.

First decide what on your list can be handled by someone else. Accept that they won’t do it exactly the way you would and identify projects where done is more important than perfect. Indecision frequently causes more damage than a wrong decision.

In some cases, you might be able to delegate down (or across) to a subordinate, coworker, volunteer or intern. In others, (and this one’s trickier), the project might be languishing because it really needs to be delegated up the reporting chain.

If you’re finding it difficult to delegate down or delegate up, you might discover that you’re dealing with a project that you should delegate out.

Which leads us to our next step…

 

3. Evaluate

Do you lack someone on your team with the right skillset to complete the project? Are you short on the time or the expertise needed to manage the process?

It would be a ridiculous waste of resources to maintain a staff that encompasses every imaginable skillset your organization could ever need. But sometimes projects get delayed when the right person isn’t available to take it on.

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll encounter projects that you’d be better off delegating out.

Going outside for help increases your capacity without increasing your overhead. Not to mention that a specialist will get the job done faster and better than anyone juggling multiple priorities.

Outside help can come in many forms. It might be developing an ambassador program to help spread the word. It could be collaboration with another organization that has resources you can share. Or it could mean hiring experts to handle the task.

What opportunities are passing by while your message isn’t supporting your new strategy, your website isn’t working the way you want or that campaign you imagine is still in your head?

If there is a project that is stuck, let’s talk. We can help you leap forward this spring.


1 Wrike 2015 Work Management Survey Report. Retrieved from https://www.wrike.com/blog/2015-work-management-survey-report/

The Path to Participation: Five Steps to Inspiring Action

As old man winter swept through with a final hurrah, shovels and snow blowers across the country have been working overtime clearing paths in the snow.

But today we’re going to talk about a different kind of path — the kind that leads people to take action. The path to participation.

Participation can mean different things to different organizations — whether it’s getting people to donate, advocate or volunteer. What matters is that people are taking the important actions you need for your organization to thrive.

In our work, we’ve identified five steps on the path to participation to help you attract the right people and get them more deeply involved:


1. CREATE A CONNECTION.

Didn’t pay your cell phone bill? Don’t expect your phone to ring! The same thing applies when you’re trying to attract people to your cause. If there’s no connection, your audience can’t answer.

To get that line hot, it helps to start with a little self-reflection…

First, identify the URGENT and IMPORTANT need your organization tackles.

Do you address childhood hunger — or the fact that three-year-old Jane will have nothing to eat today?

Do you work to protect the environment — or are you trying to stop deforestation in your county or there will be no owls left in two years?

Do you help low-income students get a great education — or are you helping Jack learn to read before he loses interest in school like his brother who already dropped out?

Get the picture? It’s about vividly positioning the outcome of your work.

Next, think about what makes you uniquely able to deliver the solution.

Do you have first-hand knowledge of the situation in a particular geographic area? Experience with a certain sub-species of bird? Are you the only organization that offers 24-hour services in your sector?

Look for parameters can you put around your work that make you the one-and-only.

Once you’re clear on what urgent important needs you’re uniquely positioned to solve — things you’re proud your organization does better than any other — you’re ready to create a connection using messages, images and experiences that move your readers.

But to do that, you need to….


2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

If you’re afraid of dogs and allergic to cats, are you going to feel a strong inclination to support your local animal shelter? No matter what the messaging, the shelter’s time and money would be better spent wooing animal lovers.

It’s time to stop doing everything for everyone. Save your energy and effort for where it’s likely to pay dividends, and then laser-focus on what will help you connect with those people you want to reach.

The critical first step is to create a profile of your “perfect” person. And be specific. Don’t just stop at demographics like name and age. Get into her hopes and dreams.

Now imagine you’re speaking directly to this perfect person every time you write a letter, choose a website photo or post to social media. Let that image guide you.

You’ll find this approach shapes which of your projects you talk about, what details you include, who you profile, even what channels you use.


3. FACILITATE THEIR DREAMS.

When your supporters donate money, give of their time, or otherwise advance your organization’s mission, it’s not really about you. They’re pursing their dreams for the world they want to see. You’re job is to make it a reality.

Everything you say and do should reflect this reality by putting your audience at the center of the action.

You can check to see whether your messaging is all about your supporters by watching your pronouns. Take some copy from your website, your newsletter, or your last fundraising letter, and highlight every time you use “we/us/our,” and flip it to “you/your.”

For example…

Organization-centered: Dear audience, We did this. We changed this. We need donations to…

Becomes audience-centered: Dear audience, You made this happen. When you volunteered, you changed this. Your gift if critical because…

See how YOU’VE made YOUR audience central to YOUR story?


4. FOCUS THEIR ACTION.

So far you’ve connected with and engaged your target audience. But if they don’t actually DO anything — share with a friend, make a donation, sign up to volunteer — they’re not participating in bringing your mission to life.

Your audience moves from engagement to participation when you help them take ACTION.

We live in a world overloaded with information, decisions and distractions. To overcome these barriers to participation, your audience needs you to focus their attention.

So stop serving your audience an overwhelming buffet of action options. Instead, offer your supporters a chef-selected entrée you know your perfect person will find appealing.

Your gut (or your board) may push you to ask your community to tutor, sponsor a child, provide snacks during the school year or call their senators, all in one letter sent to everyone. Too many choices usually lead to no choice. Pick the one action that is most valuable to you right now and most moving to your intended audience. Focus on really driving the message home with a stirring story your perfect person will readily react to.

“The key is not always to market the biggest effort you are doing but what you are doing that most connects with your audience,” advises Jeff Miles, Director of Development of the Keystone Opportunity Center.


5. REPEAT.

You might not get someone to participate through your first round of efforts. And even if you do, don’t expect an encore performance without ongoing outreach on your part.

As Sarah Gilman, Director of the National Resource Center on Lupus aptly put it, “For motivation to progress to action, repetition is required.”

Here are some of our favorite ongoing strategies:

Date your audience

Most people don’t get married on their first date. (Well, unless they happened to be in Vegas.) Relationships tend to progress through various levels of commitment before a couple says “I do.”

Take a similar approach to your relationship with your audience by inviting them to participate in stages.

One of our favorite ways to do this is through an email welcome series. When someone first signs up for your newsletter or takes some initial action, you can invite them more completely into your fold through a series of automated specialized emails that cater to their interests and invite future actions based on previous activity.

Work your thank you pages

Once someone’s made a donation or filled out a form on your website, don’t forget to work your thank you pages to create a deeper connection or a second action, whether that means sending them to your social sites, sharing a video, highlighting special content for them or giving them something special.

Experiment

Use your data to look for inspiration and identify what’s working.

Was one campaign particularly successful? Experiment to see if you can identify the secret ingredient and incorporate it into future efforts.

Split your email list in half and see if you get better results sending out your appeal on different days of the week. Then try again with different subject lines.

The possibilities are endless. But you won’t know what works for your organization and your perfect person unless you try out new strategies.

Feed the connection

All this repetition takes us back to the beginning —pay your audience dues so you don’t get cut off!

Continuing to ask, ask, ask will only disillusion your participants, no matter how “perfect” they are.

When you remember to ooze gratitude and focus on delighting and amazing your audience, they’ll be more likely to take action the next time you ask them to participate.

Aligning Design with Your Personality

A spark of sunshine broke through our dark days of winter last month at Iris Creative when we received this totally cool, completely entertaining annual report email from our email marketing provider MailChimp.

The report is creative. It’s fun. It’s original. It’s one of those pieces that gets your wheels turning out ways you can craft your own engaging, original piece to really draw in your audience.

And we’ve been working with clients long enough to already guess what you’re thinking.

“That is so cool!” you say. “I wish we could do something like that.”

“But,” you balk, “it’s just not us (our audience / our CEO / our board).”

Well, we’re here to tell you: You can do something special and engaging without stepping out of your brand’s character!

Let’s take a look at some of the brand-appropriate ways you can make your own information-laden pieces shine — from annual reports to public health messages.

 

The Visual Trend

People are busy these days. And they’re swamped by the sheer volume of information they have to process — from constantly buzzing phones to overflowing inboxes.

Scholars haven’t dubbed our era the Information Age for nothing.

That’s why finding ways to simplify your message — while remaining true to your brand and your voice — is becoming ever more important to cut through the clutter.

And that’s where MailChimp gets it right.

Sure some of the stats they share are off-the-wall. Yes, the drawings and animations are whimsical. And maybe that’s not you.

But they convey a lot of information without using a lot of words. And that’s the example we can all learn from, no matter what our brand’s personality.

 

Your True Colors

To help us organize our discussion, we picked one of the millions of models out there that you can use to talk about your brand’s personality. We liked Jennifer Aaker’s, which divides organizations into five categories that emphasize one of the following brand traits:

  • Excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date)
  • Sincerity (down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful)
  • Competence (reliable, intelligent, successful)
  • Ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough)
  • Sophistication (upper class, charming)

Don’t get too caught up in the categories here. The important thing is to see how MailChimp’s visual approach can be adapted across many different brand personalities.

Here we go.

 

If you’re daring, imaginative, exciting…

In other words, if you’re just like MailChimp…

The success of this piece starts with the type of information they chose to share. Instead of telling you how much money they made this year or the number of employees they have, they chose unique stats to tell you important things about the company:

  • 74 graduates of MCU, our internal development and growth program
    Translate: We treat our awesome employees well.
  • 4 pounds of coffee consumed by our support team per day
    Translate: We put a lot of energy into supporting our customers.
  • 13 tons of physical server infrastructure added
    Translate: We’re growing. A lot.

Most importantly, they don’t use oodles of words to convey their message. They pared the information down to just a few key phrases and got busy drawing, using a comic-strip style to literally illustrate their story.

So what does MailChimp’s approach look like if your organization if “adventurous” isn’t exactly the word that defines you?

 

If you’re known for sincerity, honesty, cheerfulness…

If your organization is a bit more serious, you can have success with a more straightforward approach.

Instead of telling us how much coffee your support team drinks, tell us how many American-based people answer the phones in your call center. And don’t show us a crazy comic-strip drawing of a monkey talking into a banana — use an actual photo of your call team at work — or better yet, take a photo of your people at iconic places in your town to reinforce your “localness” if that’s important to your audience.

There are lots of examples out there of serious organizations that effectively use a visual approach to convey their messages in an interesting way.

A winner in this category is the USDA’s Choose My Plate campaign at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

No amount of words can beat this graphical depiction of a balanced meal.

The information is easy to digest. (Sorry, pun intended!) And it makes the behavior they’re trying to encourage easy to replicate.

Another good one is this infographic from the food brand Kashi that explains why the company uses ingredients from farms in the midst of the process of going organic. They introduce the consumer to an entirely new concept and its benefits through a highly graphical representation.

It’s not daring or silly — it’s completely down-to-earth and sincere. But it’s totally visual, just like MailChimp’s annual report.

 

If you’re competent, reliable, intelligent, successful…

If reliability is your brand’s primary personality trait, your approach will be similar in style to the sincere organizations, but perhaps a little less cheery and a little more polished.

Going graphical can be even more important in this category if you need to help your readers understand complex ideas or data.

A lot of the information that the Centers for Disease Control puts out falls into this category. Take for example how they illustrate the way the International Health Regulations work.

Banks also provide great examples of “reliable” brands presenting their information infographically as well, like this one from TD Bank illustrating their healthcare survey results.

 

If you’re rugged, outdoorsy, tough…

Think all the examples you’ve seen to this point are too colorful, corporate or cute to really translate to your rugged brand?

Industrial equipment company Grainger show that visual representations of information can be rugged and tough, too. They partnered with NASCAR on this series of infographics that are clearly designed to delight their consumers. And only one includes any link to their products. The series is a great example of positioning your organization by aligning with things your community already loves.

John Deere used visualized instructions to reinforce proper use of their products. When you are tying to keep people safe, images are faster, easier and more likely to be followed than written instructions.

 

If you’re sophisticated, classy and high end….

This is the trickiest one of all, and it’s pretty much MailChimp’s polar opposite.

In our experience, it’s much harder to find highly “sophisticated” exclusive brands using the same type of visual approach we saw with the other personality types.

But visual communication is not limited to communicating instructions or information. You’ll find that these brands often use the fewest words of all in their overall communications, relying instead on gorgeous photography and one or two choice phrases to make their point.

Take a look at this brochure from Ferrari. It’s 36 pages of stunning photos and only 6 pages have even a single word.

And, in probably my favorite example ever of the battle between visual impact and wordy explanation, I give you this classic YouTube viral video from 2006 “Microsoft Designs the iPod Box”. Hard to believe it’s been 11 years since this was the cutting edge!

As a designer myself, I still find this video hilarious. And the story it tells is just as relevant today. Rumor has it some frustrated Microsoft employees were the masterminds behind this gem.

This is so funny precisely because Apple is known for it’s visual communication.

Organizations that want to embody sophistication absolutely work the fewer-words, more-images angle, even if it shows up in a drastically different way.

 

Finding ideas everywhere

We hope we’ve shown you that even the wildest of annual reports can get your own organization’s creative juices flowing, no matter what your organization’s personality.

MailChimp stirred ours.

Where will your next great idea come from?

How a Holiday Became an Annual Movement, and What you can Learn From it

mlkdaygraphic_blog-email

On Monday, January 16, countless people across the country are expected to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in service to their communities.

But that wasn’t always the case.

So how did the holiday grow so rapidly into massive movement of civic engagement?

After a significant struggle, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday was signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986. Later, in 1994, Congress designated MLK Day as a national day of service, appointing the Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency, to lead the effort.

Soon more organized initiatives began popping up across the country to mobilize diverse volunteer efforts. Today the day is widely known as “a day on, not a day off” that its proponents dreamed it would be.

What can you learn from this impressive movement to help you effect change and inspire action within you own community?

Here are some of key elements we think contributed to the movement’s growth.

 

The date and its meaning were already on people’s minds.

The MLK Day of Service movement built upon an established foundation of shared ideals, a powerful history, and a date already printed on standard calendars.

Even before the federal holiday was established on the third Monday of January, many already celebrated Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th.

There’s a lot to be said about overcoming people’s inertia by organizing around something that’s already familiar.

 

There’s a clear connection between the holiday and the effort.

When Coretta Scott King testified before Congress to have the MLK federal holiday designated a day of humanitarian service, she quoted one of Dr. King’s famous statements:

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

There is a clear and obvious link between Dr. King’s legacy and encouraging people to engage in community service that breaks down barriers and builds a land where people live in peace, dignity and equality.

 

People persevered.

Dedicated organizers across the country persevered year after year to grow the movement. (And before them, dedicated people persevered year after year to have the federal holiday recognized to begin with!)

The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the nation’s largest MLK Day event, started with only 1,000 volunteers in 1996. Now, over 20 years later, that number has grown to 140,0000!

This was certainly not a one-and-done event.

 

The movement is bigger than any one organization or person.

A broad coalition has collaborated to make the MLK Day of Service a success.

While some organizations directly connect volunteers with a wide range of service opportunities, large-scale organizers like the Corporation for National & Community Service and the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service also provide resources and tools to help other groups get their own projects off the ground and spread the word.

By working together, organizations can reach a wider audience — and benefit from each other’s areas of expertise.

 

EXTENDING THE LESSONS

The MLK Day of Service offers a number of insights into mobilizing action and raising awareness to effect change. How can you put this to work by tweaking it for your own community?

One obvious way would be to organize your own MLK Day of Service effort, geared toward the issue your organization addresses that make the nation a more just place.

But can other holidays throughout the year be used to inspire action, too?

YES!

One successful example is the Giving Tuesday movement, an effort that encourages people to break out their wallets to do good while their credit cards are still warm from Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

For more tips on making the most of Giving Tuesday, check out the Cyber Tuesday episodes of our Driving Participation podcast, including Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum and Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday.

Remember that it’s easier to gain traction around a date that’s already well established. And there should be a clear link between the holiday and your effort — like candy and cavities, the connection between National Brush Day on November 1st and Halloween the day before.

You can listen to our conversation with Abigail Quesinberry’s about her work with the Ad Council to create National Brush Day here.

Our other favorites include the American Heart Association’s multiple efforts in February that ride the tide of Valentine’s Day, like National Wear Red Day. Another great one is the Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Grave Digger’s Ball, which ties into Halloween to raise funds for the National Historic Landmark.

(Of course, if establishing an entirely new holiday in its own right is part of your mission, don’t let us stop you. Someone had to push for the creation of the MLK federal holiday to begin with!)

Don’t be discouraged if your first year starts small. Look for other organizations that might make logical partners, and keep at it. Soon your audience will begin to remember you each year as the day approaches! Consistent work over time pays off — often better than a big splash at the outset does.

Finally, there’s never better spokespeople than your own supporters. Get them involved to move you forward.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For more information, check out the following Driving Participation Podcasts, including transcripts and links to the audio recordings on iTunes:

Episode 13 – Turning Online Events into a Party for your Cause

Episode 17 – The Real Reach of Social Media with Abigail Quesinberry

Episode 22 – Manufacturing Viral Campaigns

Episode 28 – Starting a Movement and Building Momentum

Episode 70 – Using #GivingTuesday as a Launchpad for Growing Your Audience

Episode 79 – A #GivingTuesday Resource Roundup from our Podcast Guests

Episode 83 – Evolving #GivingTuesday

Episode 87 – Mastering Online Social Fundraising Using Content Marketing

 

Subscribe to Driving Participation in iTunes.

Or sign up here to have future episodes of Driving Participation delivered to your inbox!

Iris Creative Group Inc. • 451 S. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 310 • Fort Washington, PA 19034 • P: 267.468.7949
Pinterest Google+ Slideshare LinkedIn Facebook Twitter RSS"
SITE MAP

2011 IRIS CREATIVE GROUP INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED • Log in